Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Catching Up on 2010: Epic Yawn Edition

There’s no good reason for Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood to be so dull, with the exception of copious development problems and the decision to make an overlong origin story that pushes all that is fun about the character past the end credits and out of the picture entirely. There’s also the thudding predictable epic-battle stylistic rut that Scott has found himself in (he’s basically recycling his own Gladiator) that cannot lift the tattered script. And, of course, there’s the fact that Russell Crowe, an actor with some nice range, is woefully miscast. On the scale of screen Robin Hoods, Crowe’s better than Kevin Costner, but he’s no Errol Flynn (or even Cary Elwes). This is a turgid epic that looks like little more than a high-priced game of dress-up as extras clop around muddy forests looking as grim and miserable as I was watching them. Not even the combined talents of Cate Blanchett, William Hurt, Danny Huston, Max von Sydow, Matthew Macfadyen, and Mark Strong (a “how could this go wrong?” kind of cast) can scrape up more than a little entertainment value. Don’t get me wrong, this is as slick and dumbly watchable as empty failed epics get. The money was well spent on the production values. Where the film is bankrupt is where it counts: story, emotion, character, and excitement.

Another failed summer epic at least has the dignity to go a little crazy. It’s not any better than Robin Hood, but Mike Newell’s video game adaptation Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time at least has Alfred Molina racing ostriches and Ben Kingsley as a man who knows all about procuring poisoned cloaks in between his mustache twirling. Oh, and a miscast Jake Gyllenhaal’s hanging around too, though despite his status as the lead of the film, he leaves very little impact. He’s the orphan-turned-prince who stumbles into possession of the Sands of Time that are conveniently held inside a goofy dagger. They turn back time, but they can only turn back as much time as there is sand in the dagger. (I think). So, for a convoluted set of reasons, the prince marches around the desert with the blank beauty love-interest Gemma Arterton while they figure out how to conquer the forces of evil and protect the world from the villainous forces that would use the sand to…I don’t know what exactly, but let’s assume it’s bad. Though, really, I spent about as long wishing they would use the sand to go back to a time before the movie started and try again. The film’s all red-blooded matinee fun, or at least it would be if it weren’t so frequently incomprehensible in the action scenes. Not only does CGI cloud any sense of physical space in the acrobatic flips and spins, but the magic is oddly rendered and decidedly hokey. The characters are bland, the plot is cardboard, and the filmmaking is just flat and affectless. I was bored or confused for most of the movie. It’s bland, but at least it’s not entirely without flavor.

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